All season, it seemed to be eluding Oregon Men’s basketball. There were chances, the first of which came in Portland in front of a Duck-friendly crowd at the Moda Center. Oregon blew that one, monumentally.
There were two more opportunities in Las Vegas against nationally ranked teams in front of a nationwide audience.
Oregon didn’t fare much better in either of those.
They had another chance, at home in Matthew Knight Arena, against the top-ranked team in the country.
They had it…then they let it slip through their fingers.
Now, finally, Oregon earned one, and they did it in dramatic fashion.
I’m referring, of course, to the elusive “signature win” I’ve been vehemently claiming the Ducks must possess in order to have a realistic shot at the NCAA Tournament in March, a place head coach Dana Altman has led Oregon to in eight of his eleven seasons in Eugene.
Speaking of Altman, the win was not only a signature in that Oregon toppled the No.3 team in the country on their home court, albeit without a crowd in attendance due to current protocols at the university, but it was Altman’s 700th Division 1 win as a head coach. That is something not a lot of coaches can lay claim to, and Altman has been the leader every Duck fan should be proud to have.
It didn’t come easily. Oregon fumbled away a six-point lead in the final minute and UCLA was the one who had seized momentum heading into the extra period.
But behind great performances from Jacob Young (23 points on 8-of-11 shooting), Will Richardson (16 points), and N’Faly Dante (12 points, seven rebounds) the Ducks refused to let this golden opportunity slip away and they left Pauley Pavilion with that elusive signature win they so desperately needed.
In 2007, Oregon upset No.1 UCLA at old MacArthur Court on a leaner from Aaron Brooks. Ten years later in 2017, Oregon edged No.2 UCLA on a dagger three-pointer from Dillon Brooks. Both of those teams used the momentum from those wins to ride deep into the NCAA Tournament.
Though there was no Brooks to clinch this particular victory, the opportunity at using it as a launching pad for the remainder of the season remains the same.
The signature win has been achieved, now what will the Ducks do with it moving forward?